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Friday, March 29, 2013

Monthly Reads

Behind the scenes details from the Game of Thrones season three premiere in Los Angeles earlier this month.  The HBO premiere is only two days away eeep!!  Is anyone else looking forward to this show too??  While looking through these pictures I didn’t even recognize Catelynn and The Hound!  Weird to see them all modern and made up.  I especially love what wildling girl (in green and gold) and Daenerys (in blue and black) are wearing >>

I love Sasha's look from head to toe... didn't know that Jessica Simpson was this fashionable >>

The movie The Impossible had me in tears several times over.  Very emotional and thought-provoking with excellent acting! >>

Beautiful photos from Finland!  My favourite is the streetcar in Helsinki >>

Christine has a very healthy perspective on balancing life and work >>

This skirt is so beautiful and flattering, plus Tanesha is right on trend with neons for spring >>

I feel for Becki and her missing backpack.  I experienced a similar terror when I moved to Korea in 2010 and completely forgot to pick up one of my suitcases from the airport.  I remember when I realized it was missing and the heart-dropping wave of anxiety that washed over me in that moment >>

Happy Easter to those of you celebrating this weekend.  Yay for long weekends for those of you not celebrating.  Either way hopefully you have a great weekend surrounded by family and friends and get to relax on that extra day off :)

Photo credit: Jessie Willcox Smith / / Public Domain Mark 1.0

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

3 Tips to Avoid Beginner Travel Mistakes

It was one of those very late, very last minute, very unorganized packing jobs the night before I flew to Vietnam. On the plane I remember jotting in my journal, “Hanoi in 3 hrs! Let’s hope luggage transfer goes smoothly. 90 minute delay :(  free wine :)” What unfortunate foreshadowing for the rest of my day. 

I thought I had prepared for my trip by researching and booking a hostel for my first couple of nights and even arranging for pickup from the airport. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Well, turns out that 90 minute delay meant that the driver decided not to stick around, a possibility that I started stressing about it once I turned the corner of the airport and saw the customs line a mile long.  

Another wait for my suitcase then I was finally ready to get through the gates and see if, by the smallest faintest glimmer of hope, my driver was still there.  After a few rounds of searching and unfortunately getting the attention of several taxi drivers, I clearly had “lost girl who has no idea where she’s going” tattooed on my face.  This brings me to my first tip...
Tip #1: Fake It Til You Make It. As a solo female especially, take a minute to compose and collect yourself. Embrace an air of confidence, especially with cab drivers and merchants, which help you avoid getting taken advantage of. Sometimes all it takes is an extra 15 minutes of sitting when you first arrive at your destination. Grab a drink, observe what other travellers are doing, maybe take a look for the information desk, then once you've collected yourself go off to find your transportation. 
I was approached by a taxi driver and once he said he knew where my hostel was I agreed to take a ride. As I got in I remember thinking, “Hmm... white SUV, I don’t think I saw a light thingy on top, what colours are taxis in Vietnam again?” 

The driver said, “I just need to get my friend,” so I waited in the backseat searching through my notebook for the address of the hostel. A slew of curse words flew through my brain when I realized I could not find this address anywhere. The driver returned with two other men, his friends, who also needed a ride into town.  

As you can imagine I had an immediate sinking feeling in my gut telling me this was not right... I requested to see the taxi driver's licence and identification, which he produced, then cautiously agreed to continue on.
Tip #2: Prepare for travel. I don’t mean go overboard with planning an itinerary or anything, but write down important details, like booking confirmations and phone numbers, in one easy to find spot (don’t just rely on your smartphone). Have a backup plan in case airport transfer doesn’t go well. Try to get addresses written in the local language. Know the approximate currency conversion. Learn what to expect with local transportation, whether it’s catching a cab, tuk tuk, or the metro, so you don’t accidentally take an illegal taxi ride and have butterflies and kidnapping scenarios running through your head for the entire drive.
I am so grateful that taxi ride didn’t turn into anything more dangerous because I remember justifying shared taxis as a common practice in other parts of the world. They did it in Korea – why not Vietnam? Fortunately the ride was uneventful and we reached the capital city of Hanoi. 

The Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam
As we closed in on the city center, the driver couldn’t find my hostel and he insisted that I was the one who was wrong about which hostel I'd booked at (I later learned that saving face is a big part of the Vietnamese culture). Clearly this man had no idea what he was talking about and clearly I was an idiot for not writing down the address and number of where I made my reservations so I sucked it up, paid him, and got out alone.

As I passed through a cobblestone alleyway I accidentally rolled my stupidly heavy suitcase over my left foot which broke my sandal strap in half. I started to curse myself for the second time then who should magically appear but a seemingly kind Vietnamese man with a basket of shoe fixing supplies! I am not even kidding – he literally stepped out of a doorway a few paces away and gestured me over to his stool. 

After we agreed on a price (20,000 dong, or $1 USD), he proceeded to glue/sew the strap then started doing something to the sole of my sandal.  He insisted on doing the other side too and after I finally got both sandals back on my feet he told me the price was now $20! 

I’m sure you can imagine my indignation when I refused to pay. I held out a $1 bill but he refused to accept it and started to get louder. I pulled out another dollar but still he refused. After trying another few times he pushed my hand away and spit off to his right. I viewed his spitting as a sign of aggression and did not have the patience to deal with this shit at this point in the day. I was fed up but didn’t want to just throw the money on the ground so I turned and walked away. If I had just followed my next tip, this probably would not have happened.
Tip #3: Agree on a price before you proceed. Take it one step further and get out the money in advance of the service so both parties can see how much is on the table.
Shoe man came after me, spitting and yelling, accosting me down the rest of the alleyway. He caught up to me and eventually snatched the money out of my hands. When I finally plopped myself into a legit green and white cab with a polite driver who 100% knew where he was going, all I could do was breathe a sigh of relief as the cool AC washed over me.

Hopefully you don’t have to learn the hard way too and can take advantage of these 3 tips to avoid easy beginner travel mistakes. 
1) Fake it til you make it – adopt an air of confidence, especially when dealing with taxi drivers and merchants
2) Prepare for travel – have a backup plan in case airport transfer doesn’t go well; make sure hostel arrangements are written down and easy to find (ideally written in the local language)
3) Fix a price in advance – take it one step further and get out the money in advance of the service so both parties can see how much is on the table
Finally settled for the night and ready to have a drink. Alcohol very much appreciated by this point!
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Mani Monday


I used to be the worst nail biter/ripper with the ugliest nail beds and cuticles and hangnails.  For years and years my nails were never long enough to see the white.  My granny, who's always had naturally beautiful and elegant hands, would tell me that I could have such nice hands too but if I kept biting my nails and cracking my knuckles I would never get a ring to fit on there.  Well granny – I proved you wrong!  All I needed was that ring on there in the first place.  The day I got engaged was the last day I bit my nails (cracking my knuckles is a different story).  It’s been a year and a half since that ring has been on my finger and what a difference it has been for my hands.
I try to take a lot more pride in my nails now and especially enjoy getting gel manicures.  When they’re done properly (ie: not a speck of polish on your skin otherwise it leads to chips and peels off much easier), gel manicures last for at least 10 days and make my nails so much stronger.  They are double the price of a regular manicure though :(  Regular polish will last me about 5 days without chipping so while gel manicures are more expensive, I definitely get my value from them.  These photos were taken 5 days after my manicure and my nails are still looking shiny and pretty!  Neon is very in for spring right now and I love the super bright pop of colour.  My favourite J. Crew Factory leopard print scarf was sitting beside me so I grabbed that for the pictures.  I think I like neon pink and leopard together... giving me some inspiration for an outfit post...

On the last Monday of every month I will be posting my latest manicure and linking up with the lovely Heather from Glitter and Gloss.  If you have any nail care tips and tricks please let me know in the comments below.  I’m always keeping my eye out for something new!

What I'm Loving: Leather, Leopard, and Lace


H&M leather jacket / J Brand j-brand skinny jeans / Kitsch Couture ankle booties / Dune suede clutch / Ben Bridge diamond heart earrings / Topshop belt (no longer available) 

I know it’s supposed to be springtime and peachy pastels are all the rage, but with below-freezing temperatures still it’s just not practical to be baring any skin in flowy light outfits.  Instead I’m embracing the last bit of winter with this darker colour palette and leather accessories.  I love this outfit for a night on the town because of its feminine details combined with tougher, edgy elements.  The lace peplum tank and delicate rose gold heart earrings play off nicely against a badass leather moto jacket and studded booties.  Throw in a bit of leopard print and the trendy oxblood and you’ve got yourself a killer outfit for girls’ night out. 

Now if only I had some money to burn... ;)

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The First Post


So why choose the name “The Lifestyle Project”? Well, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about living life intentionally instead of just following along with the status quo. I’m inspired by the quote, “Love the life you live. Live the life you love."

While I think the goals of financial security, career development, and building a family are certainly admirable, I don’t like how my generation has been groomed to follow this path. As my (newlywed) husband and I try to figure out our future, the lifestyle we keep talking about is one filled with love, adventure, and true happiness. That’s where the “project” part of the blog comes in, for me particularly. I’m trying to make decisions that actively better my life, fulfil my sense of adventure, actions that really and truly contribute to my happiness instead of just going along with the status quo get-a-job-climb-the-corporate-ladder-buy-a-house-settle-down-1.2 kids kind of thing. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that kind of path, or even that it won’t be ours sometime in the future, but it’s not our path right now. 

This blog, The Lifestyle Project, is something I’m doing in the vein of seizing the day, something I’m doing for me. It’s a creative outlet where I can share my personality, interests, and cool pics, engage with others, develop my writing skills, be inspired and maybe even inspire others.

So whether you’re sneaking in a five minute break at work or perhaps relaxing at home with a glass of wine in hand, I hope this blog can be a source of a little entertainment and inspiration in your life. 

Who knows... maybe one day it won’t just be a project anymore...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
     Mark Twain
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